California nets nearly $700,000 in USDA farm-to-school grants

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The USDA has announced $4.8 million in grants for 74 projects spanning 39 states that support the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to connect child nutrition programs with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School Program. Grant recipients in California will receive $672,795.

“Farm to school programs work—for schools, for producers, and for communities,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “By serving nutritious and locally grown foods, engaging students in hands-on lessons, and involving parents and community members, these programs provide children with a holistic experience that sets them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. With early results from our Farm to School Census indicating schools across the nation invested nearly $600 million in local products, farm to school also provides a significant and reliable market for local farmers and ranchers.”

USDA’s Farm to School Grants fund school districts, state and local agencies, tribal nations, agricultural producers, and non-profit organizations in their efforts to increase local foods served through child nutrition programs; teach children about food and agriculture through garden and classroom education; and develop schools’ and farmers’ capacities to participate in farm to school. Awards ranging from $20,000 to $100,000 are distributed in four different grant categories: Planning, Implementation, Support Service, and Training.For the 2016 school year, grants will serve more than 5,211 schools and 2.9 million students, nearly 40 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

Farm to School programs help support California farmers and provide healthy, California-grown food to school children. CDFA strongly supports California’s Farm to School programs through its Office of Farm to Fork, which provides farm to school resources and helps California schools connect with California farmers through the online California Farmer Marketplace.

The California grant recipients are as follows:

Center for Ecoliteracy, Berkeley
Grant Type: Support Service; $100,000
“California Thursdays” is a collaboration between the Center for Ecoliteracy and a network of school districts to serve freshly prepared school meals made from California-grown food. The network includes 42 districts that collectively serve over 250 million meals annually. This project will implement two new efforts: (1) a two-day training program to build capacity and provide technical expertise to nutrition services leaders, and (2) a robust website that features a public interface to improve communications and access to resources among the network.

County of Sonoma Department of Health Services, Santa Rosa
Grant Type: Support Service; $94,580
The County of Sonoma Department of Health Services in California will work with key partners to expand farm to preschool programs at fifteen school-based pre-kindergarten sites serving low income families throughout Sonoma County. Activities will include Harvest of the Month educational tasting kits of farm fresh produce; procurement of locally grown foods into pre-kindergarten meal programs; increased hands-on learning in on-site gardens; and the development of comprehensive wellness policies that include farm to preschool language.

Konocti Unified School District, Lower Lake (Lake County)
Grant Type: Planning; $45,000
Konocti Unified School District will increase the use of locally-grown foods in school meals, and the number of students that participate in those meals, by embedding farm to school best practices into school culture. Strategies include working with multiple schools, increasing local foods in summer meals, revising policies to facilitate local procurement, increasing school vegetable production, aligning experiential education with Common Core state standards, and engaging the community through marketing and promotion.

National Farm to School Network, San Francisco
Grant Type: Training – National; $49,665
The National Farm to School Network will conduct advanced trainings to support school food service/nutrition directors and farmers/producers in sustaining and expanding their farm to school work. Training will be held in conjunction with the 8th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference happening June 2 through 4, 2016, in Madison, WI.

Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena
Grant Type: Implementation; $100,000
Pasadena Unified School District, previously a FY 2014 USDA Farm to School planning grantee, will systematically link fresh food procurement and preparation through staff and teacher training; classroom curriculum; and experiential activities for students in cafeterias, school gardens, and field trips to create an integrated, well-coordinated, and district-wide farm to school approach.

Plumas Unified School District, Quincy
Grant Type: Planning; $45,000
Plumas Unified School District will develop a five year plan to expand the existing school gardens and production greenhouse to all 13 prekindergarten-12th grade public schools. Teachers, ranchers, farmers, social service agencies, and interested community members will be invited to provide input in developing a sustainable garden education and local procurement plan. Representatives from the three neighboring counties will be included to explore a regional approach.

Sacramento City Unified School District, Sacramento
Grant Type: Implementation; $100,000
Sacramento City Unified School District, in partnership with the Food Literacy Center and Soil Born Farms, designed a farm to school project to include procurement of fresh vegetables, garden education, and nutrition education. This project will introduce a new vegetable each month to students in three pilot elementary schools and then to students throughout the district.

The Edible Schoolyard Project, Berkeley
Grant Type: Training – National; $45,050
This project will pilot a new Edible Schoolyard Intensive professional development program for farm to school practitioners from across the country to increase the ability of maturing farm to school programs to sustain long-term success by educating participants about how to forge strong relationships between school food service staff, school leaders, and classroom, garden, and kitchen educators.

Yolo County Department of Agriculture, Woodland
Grant Type: Support Service; $93,500
Building on the last three years of operating a successful farm to school program focused on procurement, this project will engage with local school districts to (1) acquire data on the quantity and frequency of foods being served through the meal programs, (2) track crop data for translation into yield for local farms, (3) provide training and writing services with farms to obtain their Good Agricultural Practices certification, and (4) provide services such as curated farm tours, farm availability listings, and business guidance for producers.

Link to all grant recipients

Link to news release

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